A Wholistic Reading Approach
Constructing background knowledge is one of the foundational skills of the wholistic reading approach. Check out this post to read about how to teach reading in a wholistic, well-rounded way.
What is background knowledge?
Background knowledge is the information you already know about a topic that you can apply to a new text for understanding.
As readers, when we pick up a book, we rarely read on a topic that we know absolutely nothing about. Most of the time, we as readers know a little bit about the topic, and the new text we’re reading helps us add to what we already know.
In that case, our background knowledge, or pre-existing knowledge, on the topic helped us to understand what we were reading and learn something new.
What does this mean for me?
Because background knowledge is so important for reading comprehension, it is vital that we as educators and parents introduce our children to a variety of topics, even if it’s above their grade level.*
*Disclaimer: I am not advocating for children to be taught content that is inappropriate for their age. Some topics or themes should not be taught until a child is old enough to process them.
For example, just because there aren’t any good informational books about medieval times written at a first grade level does not mean that a first grader can’t learn about medieval times. He can certainly visit museums, look at pictures, or look through informational texts with an adult who can read to him.
Children are fully capable of learning all sorts of information on a variety of topics, even if they can’t read about it yet. Therefore, we as parents and educators, shouldn’t be afraid to fill their heads with knowledge for future understanding in reading.
So check out those cool information books at the library for your kindergartener. Take your 2nd grader to the museum. Discuss and teach a variety of topics to your third grader!
Don’t be afraid to teach knowledge! The more we work to build that background knowledge, the more our children can understand a variety of books as they grow as readers!
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